Saturday, July 3, 2010

More Celtic Augury

"Mom, stop the car!" yelled my youngest, the budding ornithologist, "it's a huge bird!" I screeched to a stop, luckily with no one behind me, and backed up to see why my kid was screaming. Well, gobsmack me! "It's a heron," she was yelling, and she was (of course) right. Two houses from our great big barn of a home, a great blue heron had landed on our neighbor's rooftop! It stood there, walking up and down the ridge sedately and deliberately, while my youngest and I watched it in awe (our neighbor came out to join us, wondering at first why we were staring at her roof!). After 10 minutes, the heron flew up and away, as only a heron can, with its full six foot wing span and graceful mien.


Now herons are no strangers around here. None of my neighbors keep koi, as what is the point other than as heron bait? Nearby creeks feed down to the Youghiogheny River, where herons find plenty of food. I see herons every week or so, winging over from creek to creek.

Yet this was the first time a heron has stood nearby on a house. That surprising action brings the bird from simple friendly neighborhood bird, to a visitation from the spirits. And so, budding augur that I am, I rushed my kid to the pool and sped home to learn what in heaven's name a heron might mean.

Off to some mythologies. Herons are connected to the Egyptian Ra, seen as a form of resurrection and renewal, a speaking metaphor for me these days. For the Greeks, heron was sacred to Poseidon, and was one of Athena's divine messengers - rather like hawk for the Cherokee. Early Christians saw the quiet hunter heron as a metaphor for contemplation and prayer. And in China, heron is a symbol for longevity (ok, I like that!)

In Wales, herons and storks are Creyr. (Say "cray" as in "crayon" and "ear" as in, well, ear, plus, if you can, roll that final "r," and that is the Welsh.) Blue Herons are Creyr Glas. The word "creyr" is akin to Welsh words for create and creation, and more loosely, innovation. (Thus there are many corporations in Wales that use creyr as part of their name!) Creyr, the heron, is a giver of and a symbol for life.

Creyr pops up all over Welsh legend. Rhiannon and the Lady of the Lake both change into herons, and heron was associated with the secrets of life. (Often heron keeps the secrets of life in a little bag under the water, which explains why it stands on one leg). Christians took both stork and heron to symbolize St. Columba. Intertwined herons and storks are common in the Book of Kells and other knotwork. Double laced herons can represent the constant relationship between the otherworld and our own world in the more physical realm. In knotwork, they show the constant interaction of both worlds, forever around us and part of us.

Creyr in my life seems completely appropriate. My home life is changing rapidly, as kids get older and as two of my special needs children are thriving with less and less services. I am back in school, planning new businesses, and hoping to actually get out and meet new people sometime soon! A year ago such changes were impossible. Now the changes seem scary, yes, but, like creation itself, also exciting! That heron on a neighbor's roof is a challenge to me, and a reminder of innovation. Rearing special needs kids has demanded endless innovations, creating new definitions of family and partnership. The goal was always - and still is - what is best for my children.

Yet suddenly Creyr appears on rooftops, at the same time creation seems not yet to be done with me! Somewhere in the work with my children these many years, they have somehow birthed a new me. And that me doesn't seem to be able to stop growing.

Perhaps heron is a invocation to us all. After all, creyr turned up just before last week's lunar eclipse at the full moon! Heron can be a divine messenger for everyone, urging on each of us to create anew. I asked about gardens just a few months ago, wondering what my gentle readers hoped to grow in their yards and window boxes.

Heron asks humanity a new question: what is growing within you?

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